Southern California Trojans
2010 Record: 8-5
2010 Bowl Result: no game, ineligible
2010 Against the Spread: 6-7
2010 over/under: 7-6
Returning Starters: 15 (6 offense, 9 defense)
Throughout August we are releasing pre-season previews for all the major college teams. Our College Football Handicappers are doing plenty of research to make sure we release winners every week during the upcoming season.
Last season, USC went 8-5 in the first season under new coach Lane Kiffin. It was also the first year of probation for the Trojans with scholarship limitations and a ban on postseason play. The probation will continue this year. The Trojans still have the talent to play with any team in the country though the loss of scholarships will hurt the depth.
This year USC returns 15 starters, but can’t qualify for the Pac 12 championship game or a bowl game. They could lose motivation as they can only play spoiler so that is something bettors need to keep in mind as the season goes on.
Here is a look at USC’s offense, defense, special teams, and schedule for 2011.
The offense was pretty good for the Trojans last year averaging 431.8 total yards a game, including 242.2 passing yards and 189.7 rushing yards a game. USC scored 31 points a game last year. All ranked at or near the top 40 in the country.
Junior quarterback Matt Barkley returns for his third and probably final year as a starter. He will be a first round NFL pick whenever he decides to leave USC, and the riches could be too much to turn down for much longer. Barkley completed 62.6% of his passes last year for 2,791 yards, 26 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Three freshmen are competing for the back-up job, Jesse Scroggins, Max Wittek, and Cody Kessler. Scroggins is in the lead for the job right now as he is a redshirt and the other two are true freshmen. Scroggins could get some snaps as the coaching staff wants to prepare him to be the starter after Barkley departs.
Senior Marc Tyler was the leading rusher with 171 carries, 913 yards, and 9 touchdowns last year. He also had 17 catches and a touchdown. However, the coaches have said their is no guarantee he will keep his job as the feature back as they have 3 other talented tailbacks that will compete with Tyler for the job. Tyler was suspended for at least the first game of the season after he made some controversial comments while drunk on the website TMZ. Redshirt freshman D.J. Morgan, sophomore Dillon Baxter, and junior Curtis McNeal will all press Tyler for the starting back position. Morgan and McNeal didn’t play last season, McNeal because of academics, while Baxter had 59 carries, 252 yards, and a touchdown last year as a freshman. All four will get significant carries, regardless of who is named the feature back. Freshman Soma Vainuku takes over as fullback, an important position for the Trojans because they are asked to run block, pass protect, take a few carries, and maybe catch some passes as well.
The Trojans had 3 receivers drafted by the NFL last season, but still have plenty of talented receivers left in the program. Robert Woods was the leading receiver last year with 65 catches, 792 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Senior Brandon Carswell returns after 16 catches, 205 yards, and a touchdown last year. Sophomore Markeith Ambles and redshirt freshman Kyle Prater will compete to back up Carswell. Sophomore De’von Flournoy and true freshman George Farmer will also get some looks from Barkley. Senior tight end Rhett Ellison was All Pac 10 honorable mention last year with 21 catches, 239 yards, and 3 touchdowns last year.
The offensive line returns only 2 starters and don’t have a lot of depth. Injuries plagued the line in spring practice, and the Trojans will have to depend on underclassmen to grow up in a hurry. The line could be a trouble spot for the Trojans. Junior LT Matt Kalil has all of the tools to be a first round NFL pick but sometimes his work ethic can be questioned. If he can improve his attitude he can be the anchor the line needs to protect Barkley. Junior Khaled Holmes was an All Pac 10 honorable mention guard last season but moves to center because the Trojans were thin at that position.
Last season the Trojans had one of the worst pass defenses in the country giving up 259.5 passing yards a game. They gave up over 400 total yards to Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, Stanford, and Arizona, all losses except the Hawaii and Arizona games. In fact, Hawaii, Washington and Oregon shredded the Trojan defense for over 500 total yards, and Stanford had 478 yards. Overall, the Trojans gave up 402 total yards a game, though the rush defense gave up only 142.5 rushing yards a game. Oregon did roll up 311 rushing yards in the Ducks’ 53-32 blowout win. The Trojans gave up 26.7 points a game.The Trojans return 9 starters from that unit.
It isn’t clear why USC struggled so much on defense under genius defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin, Lane’s father. Maybe the schemes were too complex. In any case expect the Trojans to be much better with so many returning starters. Junior Free Safety T.J. McDonald is the best player on the defense and will be playing in the NFL soon. Despite having McDonald in the secondary, the Trojans still gave up 30 touchdown passes last year. That is something that needs to fixed and quickly or it will be another disappointing season for the Men of Troy. DE Nick Perry, LB Devon Kennard, and CB Nickell Robey all have the potential to become All-Stars.
True freshman Andre Heidari was one of the nations top high school kickers last year. He takes over as the kicker for the Trojans. He has a strong leg but needs to be more consistent.
Junior Kyle Negrete, a transfer from San Diego will compete with true freshman Kris Albarado for the punting job. Albarado has the stronger leg and will probably get the job.
Curtis McNeal and Nickell Robey will return punts, while Robey and Robert Woods will return kicks. Woods averaged 25 yards per return and took one 97 yards for a touchdown last year.
The Trojans open with 3 home games against Minnesota, new conference rival Utah, and Syracuse. They should be 3-0 before their first road trip of the season at Arizona St. Utah and Arizona St are predicted to be USC’s toughest competition for the Pac 12 South Division title. USC then hosts Arizona before a two game road trip to Cal and Notre Dame. The Trojans come home to play Stanford, then travels to Colorado, before a home game against Washington. The Huskies have upset USC 2 straight years. USC closes at Oregon before hosting crosstown rival UCLA in the season finale. If the defense improves, they should win at least 8 games again unless the Trojans get bored like they did last year. They lost a game late in the season at a mediocre Oregon St team 36-7 only because they lost motivation because they couldn’t go to a bowl game. The same thing could happen this year.
USC was 6-7 against the spread last year including an awful 1-5 at home and 5-2 on the road. The over/under was 7-6 last year including 4-2 at home and 3-4 on the road.
Game to Play USC
The Trojans host Minnesota in the opening week of the season. Minnesota is coming off a 3-9 season and hired a new coach Jerry Kill who is installing a new run first offense. It will take some time to get used to the new offense, plus the Gophers are traveling cross country. The spread is USC -20 1/2 but they should cover that rather easily. USC beat Minnesota last year in Minneapolis 32-21.
Game to play against USC
November 19, USC travels to Oregon and looks to avenge a humiliating 53-32 loss at home last year. Unfortunately, Oregon is just much better than the Trojans right now. It could be another ugly affair this time in Eugene. Oregon rolled up 599 total yards last season, and walked all over the Trojans defense.
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